Oh Hello!

It’s been quiet here, but I haven’t been slacking, I swear! Lots of energy and time is going into a new venture that I think you’ll like: Birdseed.

birdseed: a fieldguide in small bites

Since March, I’ve been painting familiar birds each week, and posting them along with small natural histories. I figure everyone knows at least ten birds already, but the more the merrier! And I get plenty of painting practice while I’m at it!

So if you like things like this:

Skip on over and check the rest of them out! You can subscribe if you have a Tumblr account, or you can check back each Monday morning for each week’s post. Hope to see you over there!

least. most.

For a few weeks at the beginning of summer, we share the beach with nesting birds: oystercatchers, piping plovers, and these least terns, falling out of the air to plop into the sea, pumping back out with silvery fish in their beaks.

fishingLeast terns, tiny little seabirds smaller than robins, nest in colonies of hundreds, even thousands of birds. The flock scares up at the smallest disturbance and wheels out over the waves to distract any threats, while nest-sitting females hunker down on their vulnerable eggs and pretend to be invisible.

I heard this weekend that a colony just east of us failed this year, possibly due to predators. So when I visited the colony that nests on my beach last night, I was looking for good news. And I found it.

least tern pair least tern feeding chick least tern chick

The beach is popping with just-hatched chicks, tiny fluffballs camouflaged to blend in to the gravel. Their parents bring back fish after fish from the teeming waves. They only have a few weeks to grow and fledge.

Hatching is only the first step. These little guys still have to dodge all the predators who populate the island: gulls, black-crowned night herons, racoons and foxes, loose dogs, and clumsy humans. Their parents have to find enough fish to feed them to fledging. Once their feathers grow in, they must learn how to fly and forage in the waves here on Long Island. If all goes well, in no time at all they’ll light out for the open ocean, where they’ll hunt far and wide for another year or two before hopefully returning to this beach to raise their own chicks.least terns in flight

least tern and chicksGood luck, little ones. I think you’ve got this.

flashback

I swear I’ve been hearing ghosts. The voices of spring peeper frogs keep creeping into my ears as the sun sets, later and later each day, but they’re nothing more than the echoes of my powerful imagination. I know logically the little frogs are not awake. Not for another few weeks yet. But as much as I’m enjoying the snow, and the promise of owls, and the company of ducks, a little bit of my heart craves the day when the snow melts and fills all the hollows, and the frogs start shouting in the trees to wake up spring.

Meanwhile, I stumbled on some photos from scouting trips that didn’t make it onto the blog last summer, so I thought I’d throw them up now. A little bit of a flashback for those of us for whom summer can’t come soon enough.

caterpillar butterfly flowers fairycups